Just months after I got engaged to my builder boyfriend, I watched as he exchanged x-rated messages with his secret lover…
By Sharon Cox, 46, from Shepton Mallet
My heart raced as I heard the bleep of a new Facebook message from Neil.
‘I can’t wait to see you later babe,’ it said.
I was so excited to finally meet him.
It was February 2012, and about a month earlier I had received a random friend request from Neil on Facebook.
I declined at first, but when he gave it a second shot and I saw he was from a neighbouring village and that we had friends in common, I accepted.
He started chatting me up from the get-go with charming, flirty messages.
‘You’ve got such beautiful eyes,’ he would say.
I stayed coy at first but I couldn’t help being flattered. With a teenage son and a one-year-old daughter it was hard to find time to date.
But I finally agreed to meet Neil, who was six years my junior, in a local pub for a drink.
I blushed as he introduced himself and told me all about his young twin daughters and his work as a builder. Time flew as we chatted and laughed way into the early hours of the next morning.
Before long, Neil and I were a couple.
My burly builder would treat me to dinners out and we would take our children on weekends away to the seaside. My daughter even started to call him dad.
That first year together was bliss, we were so happy, but Neil would never really lay the foundations for our future.
After a while, the relationship became stormy. Neil would pick fights and take off at any time of day or night. He would come back after a day or two and at first I would be stubborn and say no, but always gave in in the end. When I did let him come back, it was like we had just met all over again.
Then in August last year (2015) we went on one of our family trips to the beach, and Neil finally made his first big commitment.
As I walked onto the seafront I could see writing in the sand.
‘Go take a closer look,’ Neil smiled, nudging me towards the mural.
I gasped as I read the words ‘Will you marry me Sharon Cox?’
And as I turned to Neil, he opened a box with a giant sparkling ring inside.
‘Yes!’ I cried, throwing my arms around him.
When we got home I posted pictures of the proposal and my new engagement ring on my Facebook page, and sat back and watched as the messages of congratulations came rolling in.
But then something else caught my eye. Neil had a new Facebook friend called Beth who seemed to be all over his page. She was clicking Like on everything he was posting, even commenting on things he had been tagged in. I felt a pang of suspicion.
‘Hun, who’s this?’ I called over to him.
He looked over my shoulder and shrugged.
‘Just some girl that works in the shop by my building site,’ he said, casually. ‘She added me because she’s got a wall that needs rebuilding. It’s an insurance job so I could make some good money doing it.’
I accepted his explanation and tried to think nothing more of it. We’d just got engaged, after all.
But not long after the proposal, Neil was back to his old ways.
Over the next few weeks, Neil would come and stay with me at my house and be the doting fiance I wanted him to be, but then suddenly pick fights and disappear again.
I was still suspicious of Beth, who was still posting all over his Facebook page.
I even sent her a message asking who she was and what was going on with Neil.
Instantly, my phone beeped. But it wasn’t a reply from Beth, it was a message from Neil.
‘What are you doing messaging Beth?’ he asked.
I was angry and confused. Why had she told him instead of replying to my message? What was going on?
I paced my living room as I waited for Neil to get home, and when he finally arrived he sat me down on the sofa and held my hands in his.
‘She’s just asking me about this job,’ he said, looking me straight in the eyes. ‘I love you.’
With tears in my eyes I let him put his arms around me and decided to let it go. We had been together for nearly four years and I had a ring on my finger that was promising us a future together.
I put my worries to bed, and we had a happy few months as summer turned into winter.
In the run-up to Christmas, it felt like Neil and I were closer than ever.
We decorated my house with all the festive trimmings and went out shopping for presents together.
On one of our shopping trips, Neil treated himself to an iPad.
‘An early Christmas present to myself,’ he chuckled, winking at me.
When we got back to my house, Neil busied himself with his new toy. He set it all up, downloaded all his favourite apps and stayed glued to the screen all evening.
The next morning when we woke up, Neil reached straight for the iPad and started tapping away on the new device.
‘Boys and their toys, eh?’ I laughed to myself, and headed downstairs to make breakfast.
Neil followed me down a few minutes later, putting his iPad on the arm of the sofa before looking at what I was doing.
‘What’s that?’ he demanded.
I was stirring porridge on the stove.
‘What does it look like?’ I replied, ‘Breakfast!’
Neil looked angry. ‘You know I don’t like porridge,’ he grumbled.
‘Well don’t have any then,’ I snapped back.
We erupted into blazing row and Neil ended up storming out of my house. I was furious. We hadn’t argued like that for so long and now he’d left after a bust-up about porridge?
I tried to shrug it off, but was still seething all day at my shift at the local supermarket.
By the time I got home that evening I had calmed down, but Neil hadn’t texted me all day.
I made dinner for the kids then slumped on the sofa in front of the television, keeping my phone close in case Neil got in touch.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw something flash. It was Neil’s new iPad!
I reached over and it flashed again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw what was on the screen. It was an x-rated message from Beth.
I could feel bile rising up my throat as I took a snap of what was on the screen and sent it to Neil.
‘What the hell is this?’ I demanded.
I was shaking with rage as I waited for a response.
But instead of my phone going off, it was the iPad flashing again.
I watched in stunned horror as Neil typed out a message to Beth.
‘Did you send Sharon that screenshot?’ he wrote.
The tablet flashed again.
‘I wouldn’t do that to you,’ Beth had quickly replied.
They were messaging each other in front of my eyes!
Shaking, I unlocked the iPad. That’s when Neil’s web of lies unravelled.
Because Neil had set up his iPad with the same login as his iPhone, the messages on both devices had connected up.
I felt sick to my stomach as I read their exchange of steamy messages and dirty pictures.
I texted Neil again telling him I knew exactly what he was up to. I felt stupid for believing his lies for so long.
When Neil finally replied to my message he said he wasn’t coming back. Coward.
My suspicions had been confirmed and he couldn’t even face me to admit what he had done. I was heartbroken.
I slowly pulled the diamond ring from my finger. It had only been four months since I had put it on, that happy day on the beach.
Neil texted me a few more times that night blaming me for what happened. He said I loved my ex-boyfriends more than I loved him and that I had pushed him and Beth together.
Neil has changed his tune now, of course, and says he is sorry and that he wants to sort things out. He has begged for me back, insisting that it was all a mistake, but I haven’t seen him since that day.
There’s no way I could trust him again.
That cyber rat was trapped in his own web of deceit.
I’m just glad I caught him when I did.